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Oliver's legacy: Parents devoted to helping others after loss

Oliver Gill was only 24 weeks old when he died from a rare form of cancer.

LoveOliver: Mother recognised for fundraising work to help children with cancer.
LoveOliver: Mother recognised for fundraising work to help children with cancer.

Being on the oncology ward with their baby boy was a heartbreaking moment for parents Jennifer and Andy Gill.

Little Oliver's smile lit up a room and brought immense joy to his family but the odds were against him from the moment he was born.

He was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer at just two weeks old.

It was a fight too great for Oliver, who died peacefully at his home in Fife on Christmas Day 2010 at just 24 weeks old.

After their ordeal, Jennifer knew she could never go back to the way things were. She had to keep Oliver's smile and story alive by helping others.

Oliver was diagnosed with a malignant Rhabdoid Tumour at two weeks old.
Oliver was diagnosed with a malignant Rhabdoid Tumour at two weeks old.

Initially starting in a makeshift office in a cupboard in their house, the couple founded the charity LoveOliver.

They have spent the last seven years raising an incredible £470,000 alongside an ever-growing army of supporters.

Stepping back from her teaching career to devote more time to the charity's work, Jennifer - alongside her husband Andy - are still as passionate about the cause as they were on that first donation plea.

The couple's extraordinary courage will be recognised in Westminster later this month when Jennifer receives a British Citizen Award for services to volunteering and charitable giving.

The Gills want to help fund research into childhood cancer.
The Gills want to help fund research into childhood cancer.

"We knew we couldn't go back to how we were," Jennifer says, recalling those difficult few months after Oliver's death when the idea to start a charity first began.

"We knew we had to do something to help other families. And we knew that research was so underfunded and that childhood cancer in particular relies on smaller charities like ourselves."

This focus on research has remained a core goal as they now fund a second four-year PhD studentship at Newcastle University.

It has also been important for Jennifer and the team to support families and children affected by cancer in practical ways.

Working with CLIC Sargent social workers, LoveOliver has now helped more than 600 families across Scotland.

From supermarket vouchers to financial grants, Jennifer says they have many supporters who help with everything from fundraising to buying gifts for children with cancer, providing supplies for therapists and toys and games for hospital wards.

Jennifer says her British Citizen Award will be shared with all who have helped LoveOliver since it was founded.
Jennifer says her British Citizen Award will be shared with all who have helped LoveOliver since it was founded.

Being able to now extend a hand of care to every family who faces a childhood cancer diagnosis in Scotland, Jennifer says it is heartening to see Oliver's legacy reach out to so many people, adding that they have given out more grants in the past financial year than any other.

"The financial pressures on families of children with cancer are enormous so we want to relieve that as much as we can," she says.

"The support we have been getting is amazing and we just hope that continues so we can do as much as we can."

A packed fundraising schedule is already in store for 2018 with the Gill's sons Micah and Rory often proudly joining their parents in wearing their T-shirts and cheering on the LoveOliver fundraisers.

Oliver's brothers Micah and Rory enjoy cheering on the LoveOliver fundraisers.
Oliver's brothers Micah and Rory enjoy cheering on the LoveOliver fundraisers.

Jennifer says she wishes she could take everyone who has helped over the years to receive the award and that she will be accepting it on their behalf.

"It means so much to us to be able to make a difference to other families facing their own childhood cancer journeys," Jennifer says.

"Seeing how brave and inspirational Oliver was through all he had to face and continually seeing the bravery and strength of all the other amazing children and teenagers facing cancer makes it our privilege to be able to champion their cause and provide some practical support during such a tough time."

She adds: "Knowing we are doing it because of Oliver and for his cause and charity makes it even more special, significant and important for us.

"LoveOliver is how we can continue to be the best parents we can be to Oliver, and we get to make a difference to others too - so two great motivations to keep doing what we do."

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